Andahuaylillas: The Sistine Chapel of America
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Andahuaylillas: The Sistine Chapel of America

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Andahuaylillas: The Sistine Chapel of America

Small town at 3,198 meters above sea level, with a benign climate thanks to the fact that it is surrounded by mountains. It is also the head of the district of the same name, of the province of Quispicanchis, and is located 35 km. southeast of the city of Cusco on the paved road that leads to the Puno region.


Formerly, the name of this city was Antawaylla, (anta: cooper, waylla: meadow, and both words together mean "coppery meadow"). Later, the name was changed to Andahuaylas, but since it coincided with the name of a larger province in the Apurímac region, it was decided to use the diminutive Andahuaylillas.


Its lands enjoy privileged fertility, its people are calm and friendly.


Tourist attractions

Andahuaylillas has two great tourist attractions:


The Sistine Chapel of America

The San Pedro de Andahuaylillas church is the main attraction for visitors, because due to the quality of its works of art it is considered the "Sistine Chapel" of America.


It was built by the Jesuits in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Its architectural structure is the classic one of the churches of small towns. Its walls are wide, typical of colonial buildings, made with sun-dried mud bricks, a facade adorned with murals and two stone columns projected towards the main gate.


Although its architecture is relatively modest, the decoration of its interiors is the most impressive of the enclosure. We can first mention a painting of the "Virgin of the Assumption", authored by the historic Spanish painter Esteban Murillo. There are also murals attributed to Luis de Riaño (17th century) that represent man's choice for glory. This painter is also credited with the paintings that decorate the baseboards and a remarkable oil painting of the Archangel Saint Michael.


The church also houses a collection of paintings from the Cusqueña School never seen before, which represents the life of Saint Peter (with impressive frames in gold leaf), a majestic organ, silver jewelery and a Baroque altar.


Inside the enclosure, environments are appreciated where there are remains of some Inca construction. Out on the western side of the front patio, there are three large sculpted crosses representing the Trinity, the Holy symbol of Catholicism, that is: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


The main building is entered by crossing a gate of transitional architecture (between Inca and colonial). On the lintel located on the western side of the nave, two quadruped sculptures stand out; to the left is the baptistery; and around its entrance an epigraph: «I baptize him in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen"; in five languages: Latin, Spanish, Quechua, Aymara and Pukina (today an extinct language).


Inside the church there are two differentiated sections that correspond to the two phases of its construction; they are separated by the main interior arch. That is why this church has two pulpits. In the oldest part that is under the interior arch, it can be seen that most of the ornaments are in the Mudejar style (Arabic-Christian mixture that developed in Spain between the 13th and 16th centuries).


The number of frescoes that cover the walls and, above all, the ceiling, with geometric patterns and flowers adorned with gold flakes, is impressive. The Altar is tall, baroque, carved in cedar wood and also adorned with gold leaflets; in the center is the effigy of the "Virgin of the Rosary." His tabernacle is covered with silver plates. Downwards, it has an area of ​​mirrors that serve to reflect the light of the candles and the exterior that enters through the fence, improving the interior lighting.


On one side of the Altar is the sacristy, where the priests' clothes embroidered with silver and gold threads are kept. This sacristy also had gold and silver objects and jewelry that, unfortunately, were stolen in 1992, without having been recovered to date.

Why was the Andahuaylillas church called "The Sistine Chapel of America"?

This beautiful church is called "The Sistine Chapel of America" ​​because here you can find great and interesting works that would correspond to the Cusqueña School of the seventeenth century, these paintings were made by important painters of the time, highlighting Luis de Riaño (Peruvian representative of colonial painting and the most important disciple of Angelino Medoro from whom he learned the countermannerist style and introduced the technique in Cusco painting), in La Capilla de Sistina you can see beautiful altarpieces carved in wood and covered in gold leaf, this technique they are also found on the walls and ceiling.


Apparently this church of San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas, was built on the basis of some Inca temple.


The Main Square of Andahuaylillas

The immense Plaza de Armas de Andahuaylillas is surrounded by lush pisonay trees (or coral trees) and palm trees. It is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the region.


A few kilometers from here is the town of Huaro, where it is said the sorcerers lived in Inca times. There is a magnificent colonial temple whose mural paintings are by Tadeo Escalante (1803), one of the last teachers of the Cusco School.


Other tourist attractions in Andahuaylillas

When you arrive in town you can carry out a series of activities during your stay. For example, there are several silver workshops to appreciate the production process of the products or to acquire them. You can visit the Qewar craft shops and workshops, which make cloth dolls.


The streets of the town are beautiful, from the square you will see the landscapes that surround the place, the mountains and more. You will also find fresh dairy products in the Qoriorcco stable or various typical sweets in the Virgen del Carmen bakery; most of their sandwiches are made from corn.


The Lucre-Huacarpay Wetland, at 3020 meters above sea level, is 10 minutes from the town if you go by car. It is an impressive ecosystem with more than 120 species of birds, which you can see - accompanied by a tour guide - at any time of the year.

A few minutes from the Lucre Wetland is Pikillacta. This is a small pre-Inca city that belonged to the Wari culture, built between 800 and 1100 AD. Its architecture will leave you surprised.


Another attraction is the Archaeological Complex of Tipón. It is a symbol of Inca engineering and is made up of twelve terraces surrounded by stone walls. It is made up of canals, platforms and waterfalls. It is located only 19 km from the town, about 20 minutes by road.


How to get to Andahuaylillas?

In order to get to Andahuaylillas and other places close to it, you have several options starting from the city of Cusco:

  • By taxi: from anywhere in the city. Approximate price of S /. 30.00.
  • By minibus: they leave approximately every 15 min. two corners before the "Paradero de Urcos" on Avenida de la Cultura (in front of the UNSAAC). Approximate price of S /. 3.00.
  • By bus: they leave approximately every 15 min. from the "Paradero de Urcos" on Avenida de la Cultura (in front of the UNSAAC). Approximate price of S /. 2.00.

There are also many tourist agencies that organize excursions from Cusco.


When to travel to Andahuaylilla?

One of the best times to visit Andahuaylillas is during Holy Week, because the residents also fervently commemorate these dates. They perform various Catholic rituals, combined with their own Andean elements.


May 15 is another ideal date, since the Fiesta de San Isidro Labrador, patron of the town, is celebrated. It is believed that this saint favors the work of farmers.


In the middle of the year, between the months of May and July, the Fiesta del Señor de Qoylluriti is celebrated. With dances and songs, the dancers representing the people say goodbye to the deceased members of their families in the church of San Pedro Apóstol. The artists and faithful carry out a pilgrimage until they reach the snowy Qolquepunku.


Finally, you can travel during the days of the anniversary of the creation of Andahuaylillas, whose date is December 19. Throughout the month of December there are gastronomic activities, art fairs and parades.



The temperature of Andahuaylillas during the year varies from 0 ° C to 19 ° C and rarely drops below -2 ° C or rises above 22 ° C.


The climate of Andahuaylillas is also framed in two rainy seasons and a dry season. During the rainy season in Andahuaylillas it will feel cool and somewhat cloudy, while, in the dry season, the weather is quite comfortable despite perceiving the partly cloudy sky.


Best season to visit Andahuaylillas

The best season to be able to travel to Andahuaylillas, according to the recommendation of the tourist sector is during the dry season, since the presence of rain will not be perceived, the climate becomes quite comfortable with the presence of solar rays and in the afternoon-nights the sky Andahuaylillas is cloudy.


The months of the best season are between April to September.


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